Releasing potential

2010

If you're one of those who finds find happiness and fulfillment at work, you're in a significant minority. In fact according to a new survey of more than 500 people by management consultants Healthy Companies International, just a quarter of Americans find their jobs rewarding.

Unsurprisingly, a sense of fulfillment with a job tends to correlate with both income and education. The survey found that a third of those earning $75,000 or more find their job a major source of happiness, compared with just 17 per cent of those earning less than $25,000. Similarly, four out of 10 who completed college feel such satisfaction compared to one in five with just a high school education.

So for most of us, work is either a means to an end or (as one in 10 of those surveyed by Healthy Companies said) an active drain on our energy and happiness. Couple this with the oft-quoted statistic (from a huge survey back in 2005) that just one in seven employees worldwide are fully engaged with their jobs and willing to go the extra mile for their companies, and it is glaringly obvious that many workplaces are stuffed full of unrealised promise.

As Healthy Companies' Stephen Parker says, many companies are getting just a modest or minimal discretionary effort from their workforce. But if they could increase job satisfaction by just five or ten per cent it would pay off in very real terms both parties.

So just what can organisations do to motivate people who see little intrinsic value in the work that they do? How can they change the mind-set of someone who feels that their job is just a job?

In his latest piece for us Mitch McCrimmon suggests three things that cost nothing but can reap significant results. First, try asking employees "What do you think?" more often - and listen to what they have to say. Second, start all meetings by asking what went well since the last meeting. Finally, delegate more - not just more work, but responsibility.

And just think what your workplace might look like if some of the disengaged majority began to feel greater fulfillment in their work and just a fraction of that untapped potential could be unleashed.

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